New proponent vs. skeptic debate on survival of death in JSE

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The latest issue of JSE, under the "Commentary" section at the following link, features a debate on the evidence for postmortem survival, centered on the BICS contest essays: https://journalofscientificexploration.o...ue/view/85. (Incidentally, does anyone know why the promised followup pieces by James Matlock and Michael Sudduth on the Leininger reincarnation case AREN'T in this issue?)

Probably the major proponent in the debate is Stephen Braude and the major skeptic Keith Augustine, whom PQ members probably know from his critique of NDEs as survival evidence. The new JSE editor, Houran, again has given skeptics the last word, which is kind of annoying because it's starting to look like a pattern suggestive of bias (he gave Sudduth the last word on the Leininger case in the last issue of JSE and apparently gave him the last word in reply to Matlock's forthcoming piece too).

In any case, there's a lot of interesting material in the exchange. In this final reply, Augustine presents a number of criticisms of the evidential value of Leonora Piper's mediumship, which were unfamiliar to me, though seemingly largely sourced from older material. I didn't previously know about James Munves' critique of Hodgson's research on Piper published in JSPR in 1997, for example. (This led me to realize that Alan Gauld's book from this year on mediumship cites Munves repeatedly, and points out that at least one of the claims from Munves aiming to undermine the Piper evidence, on which Augustine uncritically relies, is pretty weak: "Munves (1997-98: 143), criticizes Hodgson for having 'concealed' in the printed account of the sitting the fact that though he claims that the seance notes were his, he was absent from the sitting (having been sent out because of the sensitive nature of what was said) for a period, as estimated by Munves from the typescript, of 24 minutes, during which the notes were clearly made by Heard and several significant Pellew-related names were mentioned. 'Concealed' here is rather a tendentious word in view of the fact that the missing Pellew-related bits occupied only a single sentence of the printed paper and no specifics were revealed. However, Hodgson should certainly have mentioned his absence"). 

I wonder what PQ members think of the arguments on both sides.
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A serious screwup I've found in Augustine's reply to Braude et al.: 

"Among those skeptical that the GP control was actually the deceased George Pellew were Pellew’s mother and brother, particularly after the GP control could not answer a question that the living Pellew could’ve answered with ease, leading his brother to conclude: 'Whoever it was answering that fellow, whether Mrs. Piper or Phenuit [sic] or anyone else, it was not George' (Gardner, 1992, p. 226)."

This is wrong; as far as I can ascertain, it isn't even clear if C.E. Pellew wrote the letter from which the above quote is sourced given the dishonesty and unreliability of the person who published it (Joseph Clodd). Alan Gauld indicates that the letter is "wholly unreliable," and dealt with it and related matters in 1968 in an appendix to his book, The Founders of Psychical Research. The appendix is short and can be read here: https://ia600307.us.archive.org/20/items....Piper.pdf

Augustine unwisely chooses to rely on Martin Gardner (a dishonest hack more or less 100% of the time when writing on paranormal topics) who was recycling trash from the grotesque ideologues Joseph Rinn and as already mentioned Edward Clodd. This doesn't inspire confidence about the quality of Augustine's scholarship on these matters.
(This post was last modified: 2022-08-22, 08:31 AM by RViewer88. Edited 7 times in total.)
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Mediumship has always been one of the more problematic of the Survival evidence lines. 

But having gone through a few of the BICS essays I can't take Augustine seriously. As Braude notes it's a biased review, though I would go further and note Augustine is definitely something of a pseudo-skeptic if not a member of the atheist-materialist fundamentalist faith.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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I've just started to read Augustine's paper.

Augustine said:


Quote:If BICS wanted an objective assessment of the state of the survival evidence, why not instead commission an evidence review
(not an essay contest) by independent judges, such as those in the biomedical field who have not published in the survival literature, to avoid potential conflicts of interest?


I agree, although I should point out that the contributors to the myth of an afterlife, which he edited and was the main author, could scarcely be described as independent. There was no attempt at impartiality whatsoever.

As I say in my blog post reviewing the winning essay:

Ian said:


Quote:[R]egardless of whether we are discussing the possibility of an afterlife or indeed any other topic, there seems to be this pretty much universal pattern whereby people concentrate on the evidence and reasons supporting the particular position that they happen to favour, but they pay scant regard to any awkward evidence or opposing arguments. This is certainly the case when it comes to debating whether there is an afterlife or not, regardless of a person’s specific belief on this issue.


Keith Augustine is no different, so I regard him as being hypocritical here.
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Augustine said:


Quote:One possibility stands out among the rest for its sheer simplicity: perhaps out-of-body experience (OBE) adepts and near-death experiencers (NDErs) cannot describe remote visual targets under controlled conditions because nothing leaves the body during OBEs
or NDEs that could perceive them.


The question here is what ought our prior expectations be?

I'll just repeat below what I said in my kindle notes of the soul fallacy.

To imagine people are likely to see these pictures and other signs [during an OBE] displays a ignorance and a naivety about how perception actually works. We do not just passively perceive what is out there. Our attention is very selective, indeed to such an extent that we may even fail to see what's there right in front of our eyes and in the centre of our vision. This short video illustrates this nicely.

On first viewing this, I for one failed to see the gorilla!

Now, imagine if you're on the threshold of death. Imagine you find yourself floating above your body. Maybe people saying that you've gone and nothing can be done to resuscitate you. Imagine your emotions, the profound shock, the horror, the disbelief. Would you really notice, take in, some picture on top of a closet? If many of us fail to see the gorilla when we are relaxed and in front of our monitors, think how vastly less likely we would notice things that are not involved with our apparent dead body below us. As an aside, I raised precisely this point about 20 years ago in a paranormal skeptic board (the James Randi Educational Foundation, or JREF, although it is called something else now. But I have been banned from it for many years).

Anyway, of course, after a while the NDEr might accept his situation and start exploring around. Then there is a chance of seeing pictures or other signs. But longer NDEs will be comparably less frequent than short NDEs. Also, people don't just float around in the Earthly environment forevermore, they ascend and enter into some other reality.
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Augustine said:

Quote:the failure of such simple tests of survival is incredibly problematic for empirical survivalists, such as those who herald mental mediumship as providing the best evidence available for personal survival—“no other body of evidence comes close” (Braude, 2021b*, p. 29)


Although I haven't read a great deal on mental mediumship, it seems utterly bizarre to claim that it is the best evidence. You have got to be kidding me. On the contrary, it seems to me to be the worst!

Although I accept that some mediums are obtaining information by anomalous means, this could be psi.

But even if they are in direct communication*, the information is coming presumably via telepathy, not directly. Might not the medium's underlying beliefs mould and shape the message? And perhaps only info of an emotional resonance can be conveyed. That would explain the deceased not being able to communicate codes and the like (of course, the inability to remember strings of characters shouldn't lead us to conclude that the deceased no longer exist. That would implicitly assume that the deceased remembers everything, which might well be the case, but it is an assumption.

* Contrast the indirect communication with the dead via mediumship compared to a child apparently recollecting a previous life. In the latter case, we are ostensibly directly talking to the dead person. From the horse's mouth, so to speak. Not relying upon some telepathic impression, or the motives of the medium.
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Augustine says:

Quote:[A]lthough Nahm concludes that “the available evidence for survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death clearly matches the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt” (2021*, p. 66), survival agnostics might well note that there’s an abundance of eyewitness reports for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, too, that they find just as unconvincing.


The different types of evidence for an afterlife vary hugely in their evidential value. If we're actually interested in attempting a serious, impartial assessment of whether there is an afterlife, we need to consider the best evidence.

Would a child who provides specific details of a previous life, whose details then largely check out once the previous personality is identified, really be comparable to sightings of the Loch Ness monster?

Or what about crisis apparitions? This is when someone, let's call him A, undergoes some type of crisis, quite often death. Another person, let's call him B, who is usually a friend or relative, has a visual hallucination of A around about the same time. Often, B is not aware he is undergoing a hallucination and believes that A is physically present. It is only when the apparition of A disappears, he realises his mistake.

If the Loch Ness monster were seen close up, so that it was unmistakably some creature and some unknown one at that, then the comparison would be fair. As it stands, the comparison with the best evidence for an afterlife is preposterous.

This is the usual tiresome tactic that skeptics of an afterlife constantly employ, namely conflating two very different phenomena that have widely differing quality of evidence but treating them as if the evidence were equal in both cases.

This is not a dispassionate impartial overview of the evidence, it's a tactic that people employ to try and persuade the reader, even if by doing so the reader is left with a false impression of the overall persuasiveness of the evidence.

I should stress that this is not peculiar to skeptics. It's pretty much a universal feature of all debates on both sides on any subject (and especially politics).
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(2022-08-23, 04:05 PM)Augustine Wrote:
Quote:One possibility stands out among the rest for its sheer simplicity: perhaps out-of-body experience (OBE) adepts and near-death experiencers (NDErs) cannot describe remote visual targets under controlled conditions because nothing leaves the body during OBEs or NDEs that could perceive them.

As I understand it, only one person (Patient 10 in Penny Sartori's study) has ever been in a position to actually see a target in a prospective study. That person described events that he couldn't possibly have seen, nevertheless. 

Augustine pretends he wants to see the evidence that people can see things extracorporeally. But when such evidence is presented, he reverts to looking for minute details that don't matter (to object) and proposing silly ad hoc alternatives.  I regard him as wholly dishonest and not worth wasting time on.
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(2022-08-24, 08:28 PM)tim Wrote: As I understand it, only one person (Patient 10 in Penny Sartori's study) has ever been in a position to actually see a target in a prospective study. That person described events that he couldn't possibly have seen, nevertheless. 

Augustine pretends he wants to see the evidence that people can see things extracorporeally. But when such evidence is presented, he reverts to looking for minute details that don't matter (to object) and proposing silly ad hoc alternatives.  I regard him as wholly dishonest and not worth wasting time on.

Once again, the study, and the blinders and limitations they prescribe, block the information flow between studies because they have no clue what they are doing, or how to properly design or perform these experiments.
Remote viewing has tons of accurate targets and crosses the border into OOBE and AP constantly. Trying to keep these separate using a name or technique is silly.
Ingo Swann, Sean Harribance, and many others have shown a lot of success, and we see that they obviously share particular brain patterns and neural networks that can be seen on scans. Sean located Saddam and was paid for that, by the government, while they continue to claim this isn't possible.
So we have these fakes, talkers, politics, career babies, and lots of scientists and researchers wasting resources that shouldn't be in the mix in the first place.
They are hacks, and need to go.
Instead of just picking random students and saying things fail because they are using these no-talent woo woo people, they need to screen using brain scans, or other methods. The US Army picked people at random or using a questionnaire, not skill or aptitude, not because they had any special talent. Then they cry and complain after spending millions and having a 1% success rate.
So the problem of all of these studies are the people behind them who think they know what they are doing, when they don't. They have very little to offer the world in terms of serious research, and a lot to offer in hot air and BS.
Then, we debate about whatever debate these losers have had, who don't know anything, and have no clue what they are doing.
Number one, they are not, and never will be, subject matter experts on any of this unless they experience it and then figure out how to really test for things.
So, they really don't get to chime in. Doing so wastes everyone's time and just adds to the confusion, getting funding cut, and never taking other scientists seriously, who are trying to do the right thing.

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